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Deconstructing Secularization Theory: Religion, Secularity, and Self-hood since the Onset of Western Modernity

  • Author(s): Owens, Nicole Bryanna
  • et al.

The secularization thesis is a prominent paradigm within the sociology of religion. It holds that modernity has made religion increasingly obsolete. This paper refutes the secularization thesis, arguing that religion was essential to modernity (particularly in its pertinence to the development of capitalism and democracy). Yet if religion is embedded within modern civic and political life, then what do we mean when we speak of “the secular”? I argue that secularity is a set of orientations and sensibilities towards religion that have evolved through their own repeated iteration within academia on religion. The discourse of the secular is crucial to the modern political project of governance; it creates and reifies power relations not only between the populace and the elite, but also between the west and the less modernized regions of the middle east. However, the discourses of religion and secularity are entirely subject to changing cultural conditions. I posit that postmodernity-- an era characterized by rampant consumerism and mobility – has engendered a new form of religiosity in which the individual is able to combine tenets and traditions from a multitude of traditions without experiencing cultural or cognitive dissonance in so doing. Because of religion’s reflexivity to societal change and the consistent impact it has made on the fruition of such development, the secularization thesis must be replaced by a more robust paradigm built upon the interconnectedness of the postmodern world and the longstanding interaction between religion, secularity and structures of power.

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